|Preston Ryan saves the day|
Jake Lesinski came up with a key double with two outs in the first inning that knocked in three runs and staked the HarbourCats to an early 3-0 lead. Starting pitcher Andrew Nelson got off to a great start once again, setting down the first six Bells in order. But just like in his previous start, the trouble started in the third inning. This time it was Bellingham's right-fielder Jack Klein who led off the top of the third with a towering home run that cleared the scoreboard with ease. Nelson would go on to give up two in the third, two in the fourth and a single run in the fifth before being pulled in a 5-5 game.
But just when things were looking dicey for the hometown team, the HarbourCats got a huge boost from a resurgent relief pitcher. Preston Ryan, who has struggled at times this season, registered one of the most impressive relief outings in recent years at Royal Athletic Park to pick up the win. Ryan threw six scoreless innings, giving up four hits and four walks in a gutsy 83-pitch appearance.
The turning point in the game was the top of the 9th inning when the Bells put runners on second and third with none out in a tie game. Ryan got a huge strikeout of Dallas Carroll and then he induced Chris Baker into grounding out to Alex DeGoti. For some reason, the runner at third (Scott Heath) chose not to break for the plate even though DeGoti clearly had no shot at throwing him out after leaving his feet to make the play on the Baker grounder. Ryan then finished off his escape by getting Jack Klein to pop out to Gabe Clark to end the threat.
|Clark studies David Bigelow in the 11th|
The game would eventually be won in the bottom of the 11th when the HarbourCats loaded the bases for the aforementioned Mr. Clark. The Bells brought in righty David Bigelow, perhaps the best closer in the WCL, to face Clark in the hopes of prolonging the game. Bigelow came into the match with 12 saves, a 1.16 ERA and a nasty sidearm delivery. While Bigelow took his warm-up tosses, Clark stood in the on-deck circle and studied his opponent carefully. Even though Clark has been sitting on the verge of a new all-time WCL record for home runs, the consummate team player took four consecutive balls to force home the winning run and set off a mild celebration.
Clark seemed to be in the middle of the action all night. With one out in the top of the third, Gabe caught a popup for out number two and then rolled the ball towards the mound on his way off the field. Oops. Clearly, Clark thought that he had caught the third out of the inning. Luckily there were no baserunners at the time, so the gaffe didn't cost the HarbourCats. Gabe just shook his head and laughed as he took some good-natured ribbing from his teammates.
A shout-out is also in order for the fans in attendance at RAP on Saturday night. The crowd of 1,336 was modest in size, but they were loud and boisterous in their support of the HarbourCats. They were especially supportive when Ryan ran into trouble in the ninth and they gave him a rousing ovation as he came off the mound more than once in his impressive six innings of shutout baseball. One can only imagine what the old ballyard would be like in an actual pennant race. Maybe 2015 will be our year...